Monday 8 August 2011

Riots - sticks and stones and words and phrases

It has been a long time since I went to bed so frightened....   This picture did it. The woman jumping from her home in Croydon, Surrey, a few feet away from the burning furniture store. It sums up the unintended horror brought about by a complex mix of factors happening as I write.  I don't believe rioters intended this woman to be burnt alive but, in a way, that is why it is so frightening.  It is the lack of understanding of consequence.  When human emotions fuse  into a frenzy searching for an outlet and looks for an enemy - something tribal happens and that is when consequences burst out of control.  Add in bravado,  bloodrush and the bragging of those who think the same and aggression builds.  But It is not just the rioters.  

Watching the facial expressions of the pundits on TV tonight and listening to the barely concealed contempt from factions arguing and pointing and then reading through the social media I have seen the very same frenzy and build up of tension. What are we throwing tonight?  Sticks and stones or words and phrases?

We are too close - too frightened and angry - it is not yet the best time for public debate and reasoning.  This is the time for those involved to look at the picture and consider the consequences of what they planned.  This is the time for those of us who, like the woman in the picture, thought we were not involved to realise we have always been involved. We should talk with our family, neighbours and friends and try ask not only "Why this is happening?"  but also, "What was my part in it?" and then to answer "So, what needs doing now?" and more importantly, "What can I do?"

Starter for 10  Added on 15.8.11

It is heartening that most of the conversations and comments about "The Riots" in my social life and the social media (including my Facebook Page) has been thoughtful and considered.  I have been struck, most forcibly by the response of some victims who have spoken of forgiveness.  I admire that, so much, and hope I would feel the same - if personally touched by the horror of what has happened.   However, there has been an air of the labelling, and retribution in some comments I have heard and read.  But how big is this constituency?  It has been typified by the knee jerk, angry and often plain rude  "them and us" that I was concerned about when I wrote the earlier post.. So, I repeat, "What can I do?"  But I have been challnged to answer that - Well here's my starter for 10.

1.  Encourage reasoned debate amongst family and friends.
2. Try to understand "Why?" it happened by talking to those who really know how young people think and behave (not those who have an idealised view - or a demonising view of the young)
3. Try to "walk in the shoes" (maybe stolen trainers?) of those who committed the crimes.  What circumstances, background, education, values and beliefs could lead an individual, or gang to do those things?


4. Work out how we can better educate this and future generations so there is a Moral Purpose as well as a Functionality in growing up (NOTE: I'm not just talking school and curriculum here although that is part of it - I include family, friends and yes, community/society as educationalists) 

My answers  (You'll get more detail in the BLOG and on my main website) I think we educate best by:

5. Discussing morality, ethics, philosophy and beliefs much, much more and especially when we search for those values most people would agree with (I call these the "Common Goods").  These, by definition, can bind us all together irrespective of age, class, race and religion.
6. Teaching about and finding ways youngsters can experience the critcial link between action and consequence and understand not just their "independence" but our "interdependence"
7. Looking at how we can, increasingly, give and demonstrate the fragility, risk and inspiration of real responsibility to our young, as they grow into educated adults.
8. Create a sequential, stepped, behaviour and control system that rewards "common goods" behaviour.
9. Create a parallel sequential, stepped, behaviour and control system that first teaches the consequences of "common bad" behaviour and then increasingly sanctions -  disciplines and punishes the breaking of the agreed common goods.
10. Accept  that we are all role models for the eager eyed young who are ALWAYS looking for examplar peers and adults they want to emulate...(be we bankers, politicians, teachers, parents, bloggers, drunks)

Any thoughts?